We are a bi-national, direct legal services organization serving indigent deportees, migrants, and refugees in Tijuana, Mexico. The bulk of our services are immigration-related. However, the needs of the people we serve are diverse, so we also coordinate with attorneys and non-legal professionals in a range of areas such as family law, labor law, criminal law (particularly post-conviction relief), and employment law. We also assist families with aspects of reunification in Mexico when it has been determined by U.S. authorities that it is in the best interest of the child to live with his or her parent in Mexico. We work with non-custodial deported parents to ensure their rights as parents are protected in the United States family court system.
Al Otro Lado is a 501(c)(3)
incorporated in California.
Al Otro Lado started as a project in 2012 between current board members Nora Phillips and Esmeralda Flores. At the time, Nora was a Staff Attorney at CARECEN (Central American Resource Center) in Los Angeles and Esmeralda was an attorney for PDIB (Programa de Defensa e Incidencia Binacional), a human rights organization along the US-Mexico border (Esmeralda is now the binational outreach coordinator with ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties for the Lopez-Venegas settlement for victims of coercive and deceptive practices by Customs and Border Protection). Esmeralda was in Tijuana, housed at the Casa del Migrante, a large, longstanding migrant shelter in Tijuana that has helped hundreds of thousands of migrants since its inception in 1987. Esmeralda screened deportees and migrants for violations of civil and human rights by Mexican and US law enforcement authorities, sometimes within as little as hours after their deportation from the US.
Esmeralda was in Los Angeles for a training and she and Nora met in person to talk about issues facing low-income migrants on both sides of the border. Their knowledge and expertise were extremely complementary and they realized they had shared goals and outrage over systemic injustice. They started coordinating – Esmeralda would email Nora about certain cases she encountered and Nora would screen for immigration relief to see if there was any way for the individual to return to the US lawfully. It was a completely unfunded, informal alliance between two close friends who were committed to the same thing but on different sides of the border.
Nora, Esmeralda, and an increasing group of very dedicated volunteers, colleagues, and friends have collaborated on countless cases since and have succeeded in facilitating the return of several people back to the US after they were deported, via lawful mechanisms such as the U Visa, the Credible Fear screening process for refugees, and Humanitarian Parole.